BOOK REVIEW: Hallowed (#2) by Cynthia Hand

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Star Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Short Reaction: Even better than the first! Team Christian! 
Published on/by: 26th December 2012 by HarperTeen (First published on 17th January 2012)
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 403 pages
Blurb provided by Goodreads: For months part-angel Clara Gardner trained to face the raging forest fire from her visions and rescue the alluring and mysterious Christian Prescott from the blaze. But nothing could prepare her for the fateful decisions she would be forced to make that day, or the startling revelation that her purpose—the task she was put on earth to accomplish—is not as straightforward as she thought.

Now, torn between her increasingly complicated feelings for Christian and her love for her boyfriend, Tucker, Clara struggles to make sense of what she was supposed to do the day of the fire. And, as she is drawn further into the world of part angels and the growing conflict between White Wings and Black Wings, Clara learns of the terrifying new reality that she must face: Someone close to her will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.

NON-SPOILERY REVIEW (MINOR SPOILERS FROM BOOK 1):

This book did NOT suffer from second book syndrome, and in fact, it was even BETTER than the first! This book challenged everything I knew and felt about the first. There are plenty of twists and curveballs and the pacing was just so easy and it pained me to put it down to do my Philosophy homework. Snooze.

One of the greatest things about this series (so far) is the mother daughter dynamic and it was such a great thing to see their relationship develop and overcome some pretty shocking and saddening revelations. I also really enjoyed the expansion of this whole Angel ordeal and the introduction of the Congregation as well as new angel-blood characters (a particular newbie character was INCREDIBLY shocking)! I really enjoyed these new developments and the growth of Clara’s character as she learnt more about herself and her abilities.

Sure, there were some pretty frustrating parts, especially scenes with her brother. I thought Jeffrey was incredibly petulant and I just wanted to slap some good sense into him as it was particularly frustrating to be guessing what his deal was. However, when Clara confronted him and everything made sense again, my anger shifted from Jeffrey to Clara. Boy, this was a roller coaster.

As for the romance, I have decided to take the side of Christian Porter. I like Tucker, don’t get me wrong, but there’s just something about someone who can understand exactly what you are and what you’re going through, right? I feel Clara’s frustration in that she wants to fight the future and she doesn’t want to have to follow what is laid out for her…but I’m just hoping she’ll get over it because, unf, Christian Porter.

Yeah, I just unf-ed.

Anyway, I truly enjoyed this book even more than the first but it’s still not quite a 5 star book for me. I’ve never been one to be particular about my rating but I’m trying to do this thing now where I’ll be awarding 5 stars to books that a) challenged me, b) moved me, c) made me think about it for a long period of time after completion or d) all of the above. It was well-written, yes. It had great angel mythology and a sweet romance, check and check. But I just wasn’t that attached to the entire world and the characters, prompting me to give it less than 5 stars.

I totally recommend this sequel if you have read the first book (which you should totally do!)

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BOOK REVIEW: Love Letters To The Dead by Ava Dellaira

Love Letters to the Dead Cover

Star Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Short Reaction: Yikes, mixed feelings.
Published on/by: April 1st 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Format: eBook
Page Count: 336 pages
Blurb provided by Goodreads: It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path.

 

NON-SPOILERY REVIEW:

I read this book alongside a book-lover friend, Emily (you can follow her on Instagram! http://instagram.com/book.addiction) from June 2nd to June 5th as part of a (hopefully) monthly read-along! To be honest, I didn’t go into this book with high expectations, especially seeing less than stellar reviews from my Goodreads friends. I was prepared for it though, and set my expectations really low…so you can expect my surprise to find that I kind of liked this book. Kind of. I say ‘kind of’, because I realised that I found more things to dislike in this book even though the book wasn’t bad! For starters, the pacing was very easy to get into and it’s a book that you can finish in one sitting. Another thing I liked about this book was the ‘mystery’. We are told that her sister, May, died but we are not informed of the circumstance and was pleased by how it unfolded. The last thing I liked about this book was the cover. Yup, that about sums it up.

The biggest problem I had with this book was how passive and devastatingly annoying the main character, Laurel, was. I was okay with her for the first few letters…but soon I wanted to reach into the book and clock her a few times. She had no personality whatsoever–well, if you count pretending to be someone she’s not…then, that’s Laurel for you. After all the things she learned about her sister, she still wanted to be her, wearing her clothes and her make up and listening to the same music her sister loved. She had no identity whatsoever, and she pretty much ate up every single little thing her sister fed her. She was annoyingly naive and I had hoped for an amazing character development, seeing as the character begged for it, but I was let down. Another character I truly disliked was May herself. She is the very definition of a manic pixie dream girl and in my honest opinion, why Laurel thought she was such a great sister is beyond me. Other than that, I also had a problem with the tone of the book. I mean, who was I kidding? Dear Kurt Cobain was the first line in the book.

Liking the main character, or empathising with her at the very least is incredibly important to me in order to enjoy a book. And although I pretty much disliked the two main characters of this book, I enjoyed the book as a whole. The story was eventful and interesting, there was no lull in the pacing and the supporting characters like Hannah and Natalie were very intriguing. Laurel failed as a protagonist, for me, which pretty much plummeted the ratings.

 

SPOILERY DISCUSSION:

This is just going to be word vomit from here on out. May was a crappy sister, end of discussion. She repeatedly used Laurel to go see her senior citizen of a boyfriend and she left her thirteen year old sister with his FRIEND whom she barely knew? Are you freaking kidding me? May was selfish and unhinged, clearly. I get that she was hurting over her parent’s divorce but she needed to get a grip. Do not bring your little sister along to your little rendezvous and leave her with a twenty something year old guy to take care of her. Because more often than not, they’re creeps. Creeps who molest your younger sister and steal her innocence. She was so caught up in her hurt that she didn’t really care about Laurel, not really, because if she did she wouldn’t have freaking brought Laurel over. Incredibly selfish, if you ask me.

However, Laurel also infuriated me. She said nothing. This is what I meant by Laurel being incredibly passive. She was entirely clueless and all she thought about was how much she loved May and how much she didn’t want to let go of May and how much she wanted to be in May’s world, that she didn’t even protest or didn’t even tell May about what was happening. She just went with it. And when she decided to tell May? May was shocked for like three seconds before Laurel changed the subject and May decided to pretend to be a fairy again. And to make things worse, history repeats herself when Laurel gets molested again by Blake’s roommate. She didn’t protest, again. It wasn’t clear at all what brought her to be silent and passive in this moment, which infuriated me. Did she feel like she deserved it or something? When I reached the end of the book and learned of the circumstance of May’s death, I saw the parallels. I think that was what Dellaira intended, right? But still, that particular scene was kind of glazed over.

And then another time at the party where guys gave her a pill and told her it was a caffeine pill. Laurel’s stupidity is inexplainable (but of course, not as horrendous as the boy’s actions). I have no words, seriously. NO. WORDS. She took the pill. And then someone else sexually assaulted her again. The part where her boyfriend, Sky, broke up with her? My favourite part of the book. It could’ve been a good pushing point for her to re-evaluate what she was doing with her life because Sky really hit the nail on Laurel’s crazy obsession with trying to be her sister, but she continued down this wannabe manic pixie dream girl path.

I wish I liked this book more, I really do. Sigh.